Making a Will in Michigan

How to make a will in Michigan and what can happen if you don't.

By , Attorney · University of Arkansas School of Law

Steps to Create a Will in Michigan

Here's a quick checklist for making a will in Michigan:

  1. Decide what property to include in your will.
  2. Decide who will inherit your property.
  3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.
  4. Choose a guardian for your children.
  5. Choose someone to manage children's property.
  6. Make your will.
  7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.
  8. Store your will safely.

Why Should I Make a Michigan Will?

A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:

  • leave your property to people or organizations
  • name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • name a trusted person to manage property you leave to minor children, and
  • name a personal representative, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens if I Don't Have a Will?

In Michigan, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Michigan's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Michigan?

No. You can make your own will in Michigan, using Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or you have especially complicated goals, you should talk with an attorney. See Do I Need an Attorney to Make My Estate Plan?

What Are the Requirements for Making a Will in Michigan?

To make a will in Michigan, you must:

In this situation, having "sufficient mental capacity to make a will" means that you meet all of the following requirements:

  • You understand that you are determining what will happen to your property after your death
  • You know the nature and extent of your property
  • You know who your closest relatives are
  • You understand the general nature and effect of signing the will. Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2501.

Generally, you must make your will on hard copy. (Although, see "Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?," below.) Michigan does permit handwritten wills (Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2502), but they are usually not a good idea. A holographic will in Michigan must be dated, and the material provisions in the will and the signature must be in your handwriting. Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2502.

How Do I Sign My Michigan Will?

To finalize your will in Michigan:

Your witnesses must sign the will within a "reasonable time" after seeing you sign or acknowledge it. Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2502.

Although Michigan technically allows you to have an "interested" witness who stands to inherit from your will sign it, this is usually not a good idea. It is typically better to use only disinterested witnesses to avoid the appearance that your witness influenced you to sign the will. Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2505.

Holographic wills in Michigan do not have to be witnessed. Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2502.

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

No, in Michigan, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.

However, Michigan allows you to make your will "self-proving" and you'll need to go to a notary if you want to do that. A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.

To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will go to the notary and sign an affidavit that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will.

Should My Will Name a Personal Representative?

Yes. In Michigan, you can use your will to name a personal representative who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust produces a letter to your personal representative that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name a personal representative, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

In Michigan, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:

  • making a new will that says it revokes the old will or has contradictory terms to the old will, or
  • burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying all or part of the will yourself or ordering someone else to do so in front of you. Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2507.

Michigan law presumes you intended to replace your old will with the new one if you disposed of all of your estate in your new will. If you didn't dispose of all of your estate, Michigan law presumes you only wanted your new will to add to the old one. In this situation, your executor should follow the instructions in both wills. If a term in your wills contradicts each other, your executor should follow the instructions in the new will. Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2507.

If you and your spouse divorce (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal), Michigan law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or names your spouse to be your executor. However, if you happen to remarry your ex or if you specifically state in your will (or divorce decree) that divorce should not affect the provisions in your will, then these rules won't apply. Mich. Comp. Laws § 700.2807. If you have any concerns about the effects of divorce on your will, see an estate planning attorney for help.

If you need to make changes to your will, it's best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

In a handful of states, you can make a legal will digitally—that is, you can make the will, sign it, and have it witnessed without ever printing it out. Although such electronic wills are currently available in only a minority of states, many other states are considering making electronic wills legal. Michigan's laws currently don't allow e-wills, but that may change in the future.

Where Can I Find Michigan's Laws About Making Wills?

You can find Michigan's laws about making wills here: Michigan Compiled Laws Chapter 700 Estate and Protected Individuals Code Article II Intestacy, Wills and Donative Transfers Part 5 Wills, Will Contracts, and Custody and Deposit of Wills.

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